As the US prepares a retreat from Syria that is looking more and more chaotic and confused, and Trump tweets explosive threats at Ankara regarding the fate of the Kurds—he promised “we will devastate Turkey economically” if Erdogan harms the Kurds, and hinted at creating a “safe zone” for them (what exactly that will mean, nobody knows)—Secretary of State Pompeo said in a Cairo speech that “the real enemy in the Middle East is Iran.”
The EU has been quiet as a mouse in this back-and-forth about the Kurds, in an attempt not to make Erdogan too mad, as he is playing the role of (well-paid) host to three million Syrian refugees. He is our version of a Trumpian “wall” on the eastern border, while Israel is busy building its own wall, a physical one made of concrete, along the Blue Line in Lebanon, in addition to the one it already has in the West Bank. Indeed, Washington has no intention of fighting this war against Tehran, its Syrian allies and Hezbollah: Israel will be its proxy, the US-backed “policeman” of the region, with money from the Saudis and very little concern for human rights.
For the first time, Prime Minister Netanyahu has openly claimed responsibility for the Israeli raids on Syria; also for the first time, the Saudis have criticized Trump for leaving Syria to Iran and Russia. The outgoing chief of staff of the Israeli army, General Gadi Eizenkot, admitted that in 2018 alone, Israel used more than 2,000 bombs and rockets in Syria, aimed against the Iranian Pasdaran and the Shiite militias. They did it again on Friday and Saturday, striking targets near the airport in Damascus: Israel has total “air and intelligence superiority,” the general told The New York Times.
After destroying Saddam’s Iraq in 2003 and pushing both Libya and Syria into total chaos, destabilizing the entire Middle East and the Mediterranean, and now helping the Saudis bomb civilians in Yemen, the US is keen to wash its hands of the large amounts of blood on them: on a visit to Riyadh on Monday, Secretary of State Pompeo reiterated that the real enemy was Iran.
But if Iran is the villain, what does that make the United States, after causing hundreds of thousands of deaths and tens of millions of refugees during the past decade alone? In Syria—thanks to Iran, Assad’s ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah, and especially to the intervention of Putin’s Russia—the United States has failed in its project for yet another disastrous regime change, like the previous ones in Iraq and in Libya—where it had the decisive support of France and Great Britain—which have caused the entire region to collapse into chaos and opened the Pandora’s box of unmanageable migration.
The US seems to be in sore need of having its memory refreshed about these matters, especially when it rants against Tehran, which, the US alleges, is ready to resume its program of enriching uranium to 20 percent. Nobody has forgotten, however, that Obama signed a treaty with them in 2015, which Trump denounced, imposing new sanctions instead.
Shiite Iran became a key player in Iraq precisely because of the initiative by George Bush Jr. to kill off the Sunni Saddam Hussein. Luckily, after Obama’s 2011 American withdrawal from Iraq, there were still divisions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard left in the area, commanded by General Qassem Soleimani. They proved crucial in June 2014, when al-Baghdadi’s ISIS conquered Mosul and the Iraqi army disbanded completely, so that the Iranians together with the Shiite militias were the only ones left to prevent the Caliphate from arriving at the gates of Baghdad, while America did not lift a finger.
These are simple and indisputable facts. In Riyadh, Pompeo was careful not to mention the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist killed in Istanbul on the order of the heir to the Riyadh throne, Mohammed bin Salman. This confirms America’s support for the Wahhabi kingdom, the most retrograde and conservative in the whole Middle East, and the fact that democracy and human rights are no longer important factors for American policy—not even at the level of lip service.
If there is a country in the region which can be accused of having encouraged extremism and destabilization, it is Saudi Arabia, which is doing everything it can to destroy Yemen as well. Riyadh played host to Juventus and Milan for the soccer Super Cup final on Tuesday, while it waits for even more shipments of the bombs made in Sardinia by the German company RVM, which it will use to massacre more Yemeni civilians.
In this maelstrom of American and Western self-contradiction, Washington is betting everything on the isolation of Iran, an adversary of the Saudis and of Israel, blaming Tehran for all the American-made disasters in the Middle East. The anti-Iran obsession has reached such a fever pitch that Pompeo announced a summit in Poland in February focused on the threat coming from Tehran. Meanwhile, the EU has not yet managed to set up a mechanism to get around the new US sanctions against Tehran, which will cost Italy €1.7 billion in exports per year. Simply put, we are paying for the choices of the US from our own pocket.
This is not to say that the regime of the Islamic Republic is all sunshine and rainbows. However, the Iranians have been smart enough to take advantage of the mistakes of the United States, which, in this region full of wars, have not managed to win even one—starting from Afghanistan, which after 9/11 with the al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington became the setting for the longest war in the entire history of the US. Speaking of which, it should be pointed out that Osama bin Laden was himself Saudi, and had been an ally of the Americans in the ‘80s, when the war was being fought against the Red Army in Afghanistan.
It seems one can hardly trust America’s “friends” any more than its enemies.
Trump wants to leave Syria, as well as Afghanistan, where he intends to cut the number of troops in half, because, indeed, these are all lost wars—but as he is leaving the field, he’s still angling for a new conflict with Iran. In fact, the United States are maintaining troops in Iraq and Qatar, the Sixth Fleet in Bahrain and NATO bases in Turkey, and they continue to control the energy routes in the region. However, the new American doctrine seems to be to rely on the Israeli “policeman,” hoping that there will be others, such as Saudi Arabia, who will be willing to pay for their future proxy wars. Are we going to take the bait of such transparent US propaganda even now?
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